ATHENS, Greece - For the second time in history — and the first time in 20 years — the United States has an Olympic women’s g ymnastics allaround champion.
Following in the footsteps of Mary Lou Retton, who became the first American to win the Olympic all-around title at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, 16-year-old Carly Patterson of Allen, Texas, emphatically followed her male teammate Paul Hamm in nailing her final two routines and knocking off crowd favorite Svetlana Khorkina of Russia on Thursday night at Olympic Indoor Hall.
Patterson finished with 38.387 points. Khorkina, 25, a two-time Olympic gold medal winner on the uneven bars and the defending world allaround champion, finished with 38.211. China’s Zhang Nan, 18, earned the bronze medal with 38.049. Courtney Kupets, 18, of Gaithersburg, Md., who was competing despite a strained right hamstring, finished ninth.
A night earlier, Hamm had become the first American male to win the Olympic men’s all-around title. This is the first time since 1988 in Seoul, South Korea, when the Soviet Union’s Vladimir Artemov and Yelena Shushunova won, that the same country has held both titles.
‘‘It feels like I’m having a nonstop dream,’’ USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi said.
Four years ago, the U.S. team left Sydney without a medal. Already this year, it has four — two silvers in the team competition and now two golds. And individual event finals are still to come.
Like Hamm a night earlier, when he flew out of bounds and into the judge’s table on his landing, Patterson was almost done in by the vault. Patterson didn’t miss quite as badly but she did land out of bounds, an automatic deduction of two-tenths, and posted a relatively low 9.375.
The score left Patterson in eighth place after the first of four rotations. Her coach, Evgeny Marchenko, put his arm around Patterson and made a point.
‘‘I told her, ‘It’s early. You can fight back. You’re in the same situation as Paul Hamm was in. So keep going and get it back,’ " Marchenko said.
Patterson recouped in grand style. She followed the vault with a careful, competent uneven bar routine. Two nights earlier, in the team competition, Patterson had badly botched the same set with a mistake that might have cost the U.S. team gold.
‘‘She was angry with herself,’’ Marchenko said. ‘‘She was disgusted in a way and I believe Carly used that to motivate herself tonight.’’
If Patterson wasn’t spectacular on the uneven bars, she was smartly cautious and competent. Her score of 9.575 helped pull her from eighth to fourth halfway through the competition.
And Patterson had her two favorite events to come. She believed, she said, that she was ready to earn a place in history.
‘‘I knew what I could do and if I did it, I would win a medal,’’ she said.
Patterson danced on the balance beam during her third rotation. She landed somersaults on her tiptoes, floated gracefully to the mat and into a soft landing of her double-flip dismount.
Patterson muscled through her floor exercise routine with four tumbling passes of round-offs, double somersaults, pirouettes and more double twisting turns. When she dug her toes into the floor, not moving an inch on her final landing, she threw her hands in the air, then threw herself into Marchenko’s arms.
Patterson, her face glistening with sparkly makeup, wept with joy as Marchenko twirled her in the air.
Since finishing second to Khorkina a year ago at the world championships, Patterson has heard herself called ‘‘the next Mary Lou.’’
‘‘I’m as excited now as when I won 20 years ago," Retton said. "We’ve waited a long time for this.’’